Uneven sides

imageWhatever way you look at it: my life is a triangle with uneven sides; wonky, like a tower that is crumbling or a cake that’s not right; a pack of cards stacked, tumbling. And as I attempt to navigate the landscape of my life: traveling across terrain that is uneven, bumpy; brushing up against, crashing into, obstacles that bar the way; incurring wounds and injuries… I am increasingly aware that, with time, instead of better, it gets less and less right.

Good days, bad days; happy days, sad days. Fast days, slow days; high days, low days. Days that are nice and days that are mean. Days that are concealed and days that are seen. Days that smile and days that weep. Days that wake and days that sleep. Days that talk and days that think. Days that lift and days that sink. Days that expand and days that contract. Days that add and days that subtract. Days that love and days that hate. Days that embrace and days that escape. Days that do and days that don’t. Days that will and days that won’t. Days that are days and days that are years. Days that are friends and days that are fears. There are a million ways for a day to play out… A mere traveller on an expansive back, I am fed up with being their victim.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Stone in my shoe


Feeling antsy;
finding it hard to write.
Sitting down’s a mission,
but standing up’s worse.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Wonky triangle

imageA long time ago, in what now seems like another life, I published a magazine. Aimed at the mentally fragile (people like me), it promoted creativity for emotional wellbeing and self-development. At one point near the beginning, before it had begun to really take shape, before it was much of anything really, I asked my partner if he could help me to think of a name: he works in advertising and writes for a living, or used to before he decided to jack it all in and have a complete career change, and is used to having to brand things so I figured, in terms of heads and two being better than one, that his was probably better than most. And besides… being my other half, he wouldn’t judge or laugh if my own ideas were off. Wonky Triangle was his idea, based on the concept that triangles are supposed to be perfect, all measurable angles and straight lines, all neat and contained; and people, especially fragile ones, are not. Wonky, on top of being impossible (or supposedly, depending on how you view obtuse angles and the like), was all wrong because it was different and broken. Triangles cannot be wonky or crooked: it’s not in their makeup. It also wasn’t in mine to call my magazine after something negative, or to focus on the bad stuff. Inside Out, the name I eventually chose after much deliberation, fitted much better, encouraging individuals to turn their own insides out in order to positively express what was trapped or hidden, thereby bringing new meaning and value to things that were previously challenging or, because of the element of unknown attached, simply too daunting and cognitively painful to contemplate. Containing articles, workshops, exercises, interviews, examples, images and pieces of poetry and prose submitted by readers, it provided a platform for creative individuals to express themselves openly and honestly and to, perhaps for the first time, be seen by others who might not just understand and empathise but also learn and grow by way of sharing. But for me, on the other-hand, it, the ‘wonkiness’, felt quite apt. I am ‘wonky’ and ‘broken’ and kind of impossible; impossible in the sense that I am often my worst enemy, the wall blocking the way. And life tends to get on top of me and pile up: little things becoming enormous and enormous ones gigantic, until it’s all too much and, overwhelmed, I collapse. Like a triangle with slanted edges and angles that don’t match, I present numerous unnecessary challenges that must then be deconstructed in order to be rebuilt.

Today is such a trippy, slippy, bricky, hurdlesome day. In fact: every day, or most days since the beginning of November, have presented as such. And if I’m honest, then every or most days for a long while before that. It has been bumpy few years, in which I have ridden the waves and clung on tight, gripping hard to wooden edges for fear of sinking or falling in, wondering constantly about the location of the horizon and the proximity of land.

The solution for now and the one I have adopted for some time, the one that works as a plaster but fails as a cure, is to write and to make. Expressing how I am feeling, either in word or in image, in ink or in yarn, is cathartic, bringing meaning to the stuff that gets trapped. When I think about other people seeing it, it helps: the isolation shrinks, the dark hole is a little less daunting, the beast that growls becomes quieter and more benign. After all: Beauty befriended hers and look what happened… he turned into a prince. Mine isn’t that accommodating, but he does brush his teeth and file his claws and run a comb through his hair once in a non-too-infrequent while, toning the frightful down a notch.

Drawing for the first time in over a year on Thursday – a birthday treat, albeit one that arguably backfired because the instigator wasn’t quite so accommodating as I had anticipated – I was rewarded with a glimpse of something that had been there but there hiding. It started with an eye, which became a face, which became a disembodied girl with long flowing hair, which became leaves and weeds. In place of her body, there was a hanger; holding, instead of clothes, letters. Her eyes were wide and terrified. Her cheeks were on fire. Her mouth was a startled ‘O’. Her hair was all tangled and drag-you-down weighty, like it was trying to make you drown. And the words spelt out things like ‘Chaos’ and ‘Cry’. It’s a strange image, half intriguing and inviting, half scare you away. I worked on her all day, and ever since I’ve run.

Pulling her out again this morning, laying her on the table before me, sitting and staring, silent and still, I attempted once again to summon some compassion and empathy for this hideous thing that was, by all accounts, supposedly me. We are all of our characters, both in stories and in dreams, in images and in conversations. We are everything that we think, everything that we say, everything that we do. So I am her and she is me and we are meant to love each other. Only I don’t love me and I don’t love her and I don’t think she loves me or herself either. So we are in a fix. And anyway, navigating more than my fair share of turbulent waters and tight bends, I have enough on my plate for now. All I can manage is to carry on and to respect myself enough not to overly antagonise what is already brittle by not forcing things that don’t feel right. I shall draw again. I shall finish her. But I shall not torture myself by returning to the ingracious instigator who, on my birthday of all days, so pained me, because I have better things to do with my time and, already, I have wasted enough.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Lemon Juice

Time hangs immobile,
stubbornly static;
like stagnant air.

A dog at my feet,
a kettle on the hob:
worrying…

An accident with a knife;
a sudden slit:
and blood, everywhere.

Lemon juice smarts
and the day – already grey,
darkens.

With the hours stretching further
than my eyes can see,
and the space in-between longer

than my mind can imagine:
I am not only scared,
I am terrified.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Things that go bump

imageOk, so this was supposed to have been finished days ago and written well in advance of that. And it was supposed to have had an article, poem or story accompanying it. It was also supposed to have been lighthearted and fun, the rhythm of the needles, feel of the yarn, inner guide (I guess my muse) calling the shots. But, somehow, time got the better of me (as it so often does) and the days, initially extensive, got swallowed up by demands.

Still, in amongst the clearing, cleaning, throwing, folding and packing, my fingers managed to steal fragmented moments, drawing on the rejects from minutes and hours. Taking advantage of these in-between times (mostly while waiting: in the car, in line at the supermarket, for doctor’s and vet’s appointments, etc.) I even broke a cardinal rule, knitting and stitching through farewell coffees and last lunches with friends.The result (as seen above) is a piece that could have been better and should be complete. But I’m not done yet. I thoroughly anticipate my hate melting away to make room for love, my edges softening, for I have learned that with creativity, or creativity as it pertains to me, it is necessary to keep working, trusting and believing that the path travelled is the one intended, the one drawn in the future by powers I can’t ever hope to fathom or expect to see.

• see finished piece (coming soon)
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A vegetable with limbs

imageI keep a journal and have done for years – more than I care to remember, certainly more than I can name. I carry it everywhere, always. It lives in my bag; or rather, it has a special place there, regardless of practicality and space. Even when I am weighed down – which (often) I am: with shopping, with iPad; with wallet, keys and phone; with dog and dog paraphernalia, etc. – it is still there, just in case. For to need it and not have it handy, to be full of words with nowhere to put them, is bad, leading to all manner of catastrophe – catastrophe with consequence, catastrophe with fallout, catastrophe with limbs, ones that extend far beyond the confines of literary waste.

The problem is that for weeks, maybe longer (like months), I haven’t written a thing, or hardly, and when I do, what comes out is stilted and forced: it physically pains me to put it there and it is hugely disappointing to read. Which then wreaks havoc with my self-esteem, chipping away at my already depleted levels of self-love and inner worth.

More fickle friend than faithless ally, writing is a tricky beast – inflating then dashing, furthering then sabotaging, all nib adventures and inky dreams. I preach its benefits, for done therapeutically it is capable of wonderful things: pulling out and extracting badness; reflecting innate truths; revealing deception, both personal and circumstantial; problem solving, untangling, translating, etc. What is revealed can then empower, inspire, fuel and motivate, gently encouraging our damaged and shy selves into action, activity that maybe we have or would have otherwise avoided. Used for gratitude, gladness, it, our written word, reminds us to be thankful and to see the good in our lives, the things we have that maybe others haven’t or the things that, in bad times, hold us up. As a vessel, it can be a potent tool, vital as a spousal relationship, familial support, like-minded acquaintances and friends, the right therapist. Depending of the severity of one’s malaise or life malady, it can even be a substitute for drugs (although it should not, ever, be self-prescribed).

I carry my journal anyway, even though I am not currently using it, even though I cannot write right now, refusing, stubbornly, to give up. I take it out each time I work, seating it by my side. It accompanies me on the bus, the train… It sleeps in my bedroom by my head. Given the choice, I would pick it over most other things. Despite the nature of our friendship, my loyalty does not waver. Nor does it question or doubt. In time, the words will come: I know this, because they always do. What I don’t know is when and how.

I would like to believe that it will be soon and that, when it does come, it will stay, for the thought of going through this transition (which is now imminent) without it, without anything creative, terrifies me. I need my routine. I need to be able to disappear, losing myself entirely, blotting out or reducing everything remotely threatening or external, everything dark and damaging, everything cold and grey.

Yesterday, I had a meltdown. And while it pains me to mention it, I feel that I must, if I am to climb out of the darkness and back into the light. The closer we get, the more unavoidable it becomes, the stronger the feelings inside: fear, frustration, reluctance, anger, pain, heartbreak, doubt… I am stuck in the middle of a road. It has three lanes and the traffic is fast-moving. In the distance, a car approaches, gaining ground. Engine roaring, lights glaring, horn honking, its driver attempts to motivate me. And even though I know that I must move, that to remain would be detrimental, devastating, I am a vegetable, unable to manifest even the smallest spark of life.

I’m sure the living will be less of a nightmare than the imagining, at least this is what I tell myself. And I don’t doubt that, looking back, I will laugh at my cowardice (at least, I hope I will). I also hope that when I get there I will nest, planting roots in places I haven’t even pictured yet. It is my deepest wish to grow, expand, experiment, explore, reach out and collect information and experiences. And while I cannot possibly predict what the future will bring: I know that it is a necessary evil; that progress cannot be made without change, goals achieved without challenge and peace attained without first navigating the muddy trenches of antagonism and conflict.

So while I may not be writing well in terms of literary excellence. And while I may be failing entirely in terms of writing for emotional wellbeing and health. I am still writing here. And here, whether I am brave enough to publish it or not, is a ritual I repeat like prayer.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

imageTo keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter, send me your email address.

• View or buy my work at my online portfolio
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Learn more about my work and the inspiration that guides it
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